After ninety days, it appears as if Google as lifted the penalty placed against J.C. Penney for purchasing links that violated Google’s guidelines. On May 10th, J.C. Penney was ranking in the top 10 for 24 keywords, and that number has since grown to 899 keywords. JCP has removed all of the links referenced in the New York Times article, and has regained rank for many of the mentioned keywords. JCP is back on the first page for keywords such as “skinny jeans,” “comforter sets,” “table cloths,” “grommet top curtains,” “samsonite carry on luggage,” and “living room furniture.” They now rank on the second page for the terms “dresses,” “bedding,” and “area rugs.”
The company has fired its previous search marketing firm, and is currently in the process of rewriting its URLs. The new versions of the URLs appear to be much longer, and less SEO friendly, but the company continues to rank for the old, shorter URLs. This most likely means that the penalty against J.C. Penney was manually lifted, and that Google has yet to crawl the new URL structure and adjust the rankings automatically. Once this crawl is completed, it will be interesting to see where J.C. Penney currently stands in the Google rankings and watch their recovery now that the penalty has been lifted.
JC Penney claimed that the penalty was not a significant blow to their operations but I imagine the company is welcoming the news with a sigh of relief.